Oxford Comma

Vampire Weekend is undoubtedly my favorite band right now, although there are close runner-ups. From first glance of the band’s name, most people either immediately recognize it or form quick judgements about it. I admit, the name does sound a little odd, and I know when someone first recommended the band to me, I was a little skeptical. However, those who form quick judgements that ultimately deter them from giving the band a chance are really missing out. This indie rock band of four has three awesome albums that never fail to make me happy.

Overall, I think their songs get better with each successive album, but one of my favorite songs is “Oxford Comma” from their first album self-titled “Vampire Weekend.” Here are the lyrics:

Who gives a f*** about an Oxford comma?

I’ve seen those English dramas, too, they’re cruel

So if there’s any other way to spell the word

It’s fine with me, with me

Why would you speak to me that way?

Especially when I always said

That I haven’t got the words for you

All your diction, dripping with disdain

Through the pain, I always tell the truth

Who gives a f*** about an Oxford comma?

I climbed to Dharamshala too, I did

I met the highest lama

His accent sounded fine to me, to me

Check your handbook, it’s no trick

Take the chapstick, put it on your lips

Crack a smile, adjust my tie

Know your boyfriend, unlike other guys

Why would you lie about how much coal you have?

Why would you lie about something dumb like that?

Why would you lie about anything at all?

First the window, then it’s through the wall

Lil’ Jon, he always tells the truth

Check your passport, it’s no trick

Take the chapstick, put it on your lips

Crack a smile, adjust my tie

Know your butler, unlike other guys

Why would you lie about how much coal you have?

Why would you lie about something dumb like that?

Why would you lie about anything at all?

First the window, then it’s through the wall

Why would you tape my conversations?

Show your paintings at the United Nations

Lil’ Jon, he always tells the truth”

First off, I actually do like Oxford commas, and even though The University of Oxford officially announced the serial comma is no longer necessary, I still use it religiously. Funnily enough, Ezra Koenig, the lead singer in the band, was inspired to write this song after seeing a Facebook page advocating for the Oxford comma after the decision that it was no longer necessary. When I first heard this song I thought it was great that there was a whole song devoted to one of my favorite pieces of punctuation; however, during this first hearing I did not realize the song’s actual meaning or ingenuity. Its catchy beat was the main reason I began to listen to it on loop. I soon started to realize that the underlying message of this song has really nothing to do with Oxford commas. In fact, this song delves into themes about elitism, interacting with condescending people, and trivialities in life. Aside from its catchy beat, these underlying messages and the way the band subtly incorporates them into the lyrics cause me to find this song so profound. The flippant diction, symbolism, alliteration, rhetorical questions, and allusions throughout the song  make me feel as if I’m doing literature analysis from English class when I try to decipher the song’s lyrics.

Although I do think that Oxford commas are important, in the grand scheme of all things, they really are not that important; Koenig doesn’t think so at least as the first line he sings is “Who gives a f*** about an Oxford comma?” This first line sets the tone for the rest of the song; contrary to what I first thought, this lyric actually points out trivialities that some people make a big deal about and pride themselves on. Along with this, the song talks about dealing with people who think that they’re better than everyone else as seen in the lyrics “why would you speak to me that way? […] all your diction dripping with disdain.” I love the way that the song plays off of its original presentation as being about grammar and literary devices through its explicit mention of the Oxford comma and diction, yet it still manages to communicate a deeper message about how people are arrogant and elitist over stupid things. Combine this double entendre with a catchy beat, and I can’t help but smile. The line “why would you lie about how much coal you have?” presents yet another literary device: symbolism. I interpreted this line as a reaction to someone lying about the amount of material wealth she had, further showing the singer’s bewilderment over the girl’s attempt to appear more wealthy or better than she actually is.

The messages over trivialities and condescending people stick with me because of their connection to my own life. I dislike when people unnecessarily and excessively brag about their achievements or findings, such as new electronic gadgets or super high (or even super low) test grades, and I (along with many others I’m sure) dislike when people act condescendingly towards others. Being proud or excited about an achievement or new purchase is one thing, but being excessively proud is simply annoying for others and makes me wonder if all that excessive bragging is really necessary….

Though I do truly like the messages the song presents, the other aforementioned characteristics such as the catchy beat and literary devices make it one of my favorite songs. Call me a nerd, but the main reason I love this song is because it is chalk full of literary devices and creates a double entendre with one of my favorite pieces of punctuation: the Oxford comma.

Here’s the link to the (clean version) of the song “Oxford Comma”:

“Oxford Comma”

Written By: CHRISTOPHER TOMSON;EZRA KOENIG;ROSTAM BATMANGLIJ;CHRISTOPHER BAIO

Published By: VAMPIRE WEEKEND

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2 thoughts on “Oxford Comma

  1. This is one of my favorite songs by the Vampire Weekend too! I initially fell for the beat, too, and the fact that I don’t like Oxford Commas at all (journalism does that to you 😛 ) really made me love this song! But after reading your blog post, I looked at the lyrics more carefully and you’re so right, this song about oxford commas is a metaphor about society and life, and all of their trivialities. Your sense of symbolism in regards to music and literature is strong; I’d just use this song to argue against oxford commas with my friends, which exactly proves their (and your) points right: that our trivialization of life is quite useless.

    Like

  2. Pingback: MY FELLOW BLOGGERS (PART VI) | Small World, Smaller Girl

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